Afterschool (Campos, 2008)

– Originally published elsewhere at the tail end of 2009.

It’s clear with the pervasiveness of the Internet, everything from brutal violence to accidental moments of joy become instantly available at the click of a mouse. Whether you’re picking pleasure or poison, the artificiality of these still images and streaming videos cannot be denied, even if they are supposedly capturing a “real” event. Nor can the effects such media have on America’s youth, especially recent generations born into an existence surrounded and consumed by technology. Diehards revel in these faux representations of the world that make up a vast, potent, and ultimately debilitating alternate reality.

Antonio Campos’ methodical debut feature, Afterschool, attempts to confront these complex issues by creating an almost bleached vision of modern-day adolescence, addressing social isolation and angst as if they were common threads in every child’s development. The result is a frighteningly restrained horror film that charts one young man’s descent into moral ambiguity while the unassuming world around him continues to fester with prescribed apathy. But Afterschool is not specifically a universal critique of technology, or the educational system, or even parental ignorance, but all these things occurring simultaneously, on a relegated and expected level, a system of normalcy bent and twisted and damn familiar. Continue reading

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How I Ended This Summer (Popogrebsky, 2011)

A review for InRO: Sergei Popogrebsky’s atmospheric anti-thriller How I Ended This Summer. The first 70 minutes are fascinating, building tension out of epic, elemental long shots focusing on nature and the primitive weaknesses of man. However, the last 5o minutes turn unforgivably inert, pretentious, and meandering. There’s a great film in there somewhere, but the art film conventions bury its thematic weight under a mountain of aesthetic tedium.

San Diego Latino Film Festival 2011

Below are links to my mini-coverage of the San Diego Latino Film Festival which ran from March 10 – 20. A busy writing and work schedule hindered me from seeing everything I wanted to, but special thanks to my good friend and chief programmer of the fest, Lisa Franek, for nabbing me a number of the most interesting entries on screener. You can find my coverage at The House Next Door.

 

Dispatch #1: We Are What We Are, The Fish Child, Elite
Dispatch #2: El Atentado, Besouro

The Lincoln Lawyer (Furman, 2011)

Matthew McConaughey keeps his shirt on for once in The Lincoln Lawyer, a paint-by-numbers legal thriller that plays out like a bad Law and Order episode. In my review for Slant, I touched on the film’s interesting but undeveloped analysis of social judgement and the occasional flashes of hard-boiled intensity. But mostly this film just stinks.

Battle: Los Angeles (Liebesman, 2011)

In all honestly, I had high hopes for Battle: Los Angeles after the thrilling trailer premiered earlier in the year. But alas, it was just another great hook to get American audiences into the theater for what turns out to be another underwhelming brain-dead genre film. There’s one kinetic action scene to die for, but the rest of this scattered war film is a daisy-chain of sappy dialogue, conventional plot points, and faux patriotism. Be warned.